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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 1; Issue 4; June 1999

An Old Exercise

Insistence Exercises

These first appeared in the early 80's and a number were included in Christine Frank's Grammar in Action, first published in the early 80's .

Here's how the activities go:

Pair the students. One person asks the same question again and again and the other person gives as many different answers as she can.

So, if the repeated question is "Where do you live?" these might be the first dozen replies given by Student 2:

  • 3 kms from the sea
  • 20 kms from Ancona
  • in the countryside
  • in a small village
  • in a house on the main square
  • in a white house
  • in a quite big house
  • in an old house
  • in my office
  • on the telephone
  • in front of my computer
  • in my imagination

This is a marvellous exercise for mixed ability classes since the less proficient person can take the repetitive questioning role while the stronger student can provide them with loads of listening comprehension work.

The activity is well-adapted to ESP situations. If you are working with ornithologists then you will get a lot of mileage out of:

    " How do migrating birds navigate?"

or with economists:

    " How much did World War 2 cost?"

or with theologians:

    " Who is God?".

Here is another variation:

Pair the students. Ask one student to think of something she owns. She tells her partner whether this is singular or plural. The partner then starts insistence-questioning her with this sentence:

    "What do you need it/them for?"

The partner gives vague and ambiguous answers and the questioning student has to guess what "it/them" is/are.


    A: What do you need them for?
    B: My health.
    A: What do you need them for?
    B: As a link to my father.
    A: What do you need them for?
    B: To annoy my wife.
    A: What do you need them for?
    B: Well, I eat them.
    A: What do you need them for?
    B: To make gnocchi.
    A: What do you need them for?
    B: Potatoes?
    A: Yes!

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